It’s hard to push out the “best” cooking techniques. There is not best – honestly. All of them are good. However, I just thought if there can be selected Mother Sauces, there should be some form of recommended cooking techniques right? Well, in the years I’ve learnt about food on the hob and the plate, I’ve noticed one thing – there is no right or wrong way to do things (well, it is wrong to completely burn your toast, but hey, it’s debatable!). It’s all about instinct and technique that makes someone a good cook in the kitchen. And while there are a million ways to cook a slice of salmon, or egg for that matter, I thought of a few cooking techniques to be a sure shot way of impressing your guests and your family for the night you decide to put on an apron.
I’ll keep this short (I’ll try to), and talk a wee bit about Steaming, Sautée, Grill/Fry, Braise and Roast.
Firstly, let’s take an ingredient like fish, as an example for this method. We all know that steaming food is probably the healthiest options of cooking food. There is, however, more than just putting food in a container full of steaming water. The best part about this method is to subtly introduce aromatics indirectly with the help of steam (as it kisses the food and cooks it without imparting a great deal of flavor). Yes you could use the conventional technique of placing fish in a vessel of steam.
However, another method I would prefer would be en papillote. Literally, it translates to “in paper”. While steaming the conventional way is definitely a great method to go by, with this method, you can “take advantage” of the herbs and marinades used for the protein (again, fish in this case). It is exactly how it sounds. A piece of marinated fish, with all the herbs, veggies and aromatics, sealed up in a parchment “bag” and left to cook in an oven. Now can you picture the fish cooking up in its own juices while the flavors of the other ingredients infuse as well. The best part is in the serving. You can directly serve this sealed up parcel on the plate, while your guest (or yourself) just cuts into it and inhales that beautiful steamy aroma!
Well steaming food is quite the simplest methods, and requires the simplest of equipment. A large pot with removable ” baskets” or even a Chinese bamboo steamer (which they use for dim sum) would work best! For the en papillote method, all you need is parchment paper and an oven! Oh, and probably a tray to place the parcel on.
Probably one of the “most fun” methods in the kitchen, this technique is all about speed. So its vital that you have all your mise en place ready to keep throwing into the pan (or the wok, in some cases). From stir fries to sautéed chicken/beef to even a beautiful toss of mixed noodles, the sautée can be a tad bit tricky some times. The idea behind this is to get all your ingredients thrown into the pan on a high flame, and to cook for crispiness, not the soft and delicate texture.
Make sure you use a neutral oil of a high smoking point (since you need the pan/wok to be flaming hot) such as peanut or vegetable oil. Most of all, don’t be scared to toss. It can be a bit intimidating, but that’s how you keep the food moving.
Again, not too fussy with the equipments. All you will need is a nice big low bottom skillet, or a well-rounded flat-bottom wok. To keep the food moving, I would prefer using chopsticks, however, if this is difficult, you can always use a wooden spoon.
3. Grill / Fry
One of the widely used techniques in the world, grilling food (if you think about it), started from when man discovered fire! In my opinion, it is a sure shot technique of bringing to life, the true flavors of your ingredient without having to add a lot of marinades to it. Meat being the best example for this technique, grilling / frying involves introducing the protein to a direct source of heat. So make sure that your cut of meat is a tender one (like a fillet, tenderloin, ribeye, etc), or you’ll end up with meat that smells so good, but still chewy.
Of course, there is a saving grace for the tougher cuts of meat (like brisket). A derivative of this type of cooking can be what we all know as smoking. No, not cigarettes. Smoking food is (in some ways) similar to steaming I guess, but instead of using moisture, you use a drier smoke to cook food. A nice Smoked Brisket is the best example here.
Another recommendation I would have is to use a coal starter, instead of fuel / lighter fluid, as this will definitely impart a negative flavor to your food – which you don’t want.
For frying, obviously, you need a fry pan. For grilling, obviously, you need a charcoal grill. However, should you wish to grill at home, there are loads of cast iron grill pans available. Of course, the only benefit of this pan is to get those “Grill Marks”. True grill (charcoal and/or wood) flavor can only be achieved on the real BBQ.
Braising is a method of cooking I have found my heart and soul in. First and foremost, it is one of the easiest, stress-free methods of cooking (after a stew, probably). Second, the amount of flavor in this dish is like (and I will quote Gordon Ramsay on this) “Opening up a Christmas Gift”.
This technique is perfect for all kinds of tough meat (Lamb Shoulder, Shanks, Oxtail, even Chicken Thighs). Essentially, braising is a cross between searing, steaming and roasting at the same time. It is meat cooked in a bit of liquid (base of the sauce) in a low ‘n slow time frame. The awesome part of this method is you can do whatever you want with the braising liquid before and after the cooking process. Before you get cracking with your dish, ensure you brown / sear every side of the meat so you can take advantage of this beautiful reaction and impart this to the liquid. After the cooking process, use this liquid and turn it into a sauce, because this is literally gold. More so, you get everything done in advance, and don’t worry about it for a couple of hours.
A very successful (after Easter) Braised Lamb shoulder with braising liquor and sweet potato mash! (Yes, I didn't really plan the shot very well, but I will say that patience is key to a perfect braise…and I literally means "fall off the bone"!) #food #foodphotography #foodporn #foodgasm #foodie #goodfood #homecooking #homechef #cheftré #lamb #dinner #braised #sweetpotato #mashedpotatoes #withtrevor #igers #igdaily #instagood #instapic #instafood #falloffthebone
Braising is not difficult at all, as long as you have a heavy bottom dutch pan, or even a strong durable skillet and a good oven, you’re set!
It is probably another “best” technique when it comes to cooking. Roast beef, roast lamb, roast chicken…oh boy! Well, this technique is pretty self-explanatory. Roasting is dry heat (typically from an oven), that is used to brown and cook your ingredient (mainly meat again, or even roast vegetables!). The beauty of a roast is the shear amount of quantity you can cook in. Ever heard of a “Sunday Roast Dinner”? It’s for the full family!
Again, a very simple technique. Pick out your favorite protein (beef or lamb or chicken), coat it with a nice flavorful dry rub, and toss it in the oven, on a bed of veggies, or even on its own. It could be easy to over-cook your meat with this method, so again, a low ‘n slow timeframe never hurts!
Cooking essentially boils down to the basics of whipping up beautiful scrambled eggs or roasting a chicken! Served this beautiful bird with a simple "bay-perfumed" lemon-thyme brown gravy! #food #foodphotography #foodporn #foodgasm #foodie #goodfood #dinner #Chicken #homechef #homecooking #cheftré #roast #roastchicken #gravy #withtrevor #igers #igdaily #instagood #instapic #instafood #foodblogger #blogger #cooking #cook
A good and durable roasting pan, and something I will recommend whole-heartedly, an electric (fan) oven. Gas ovens are good, but a bit difficult to control the amount and direction of heat.
Cooking, should never be intimidating – ever! Remember, you are the king/queen of your kitchen and the master of your stove. Go by intuition, go by feeling, go with what feels right and you’ll dish up something beautiful! Don’t ever be scared!
On that note…do let me know what’s your favorite technique when it comes to cooking!
Until…next time…? Well soon…